Here's the First Presidential Google Hangout with President +Barack Obama from +The White House
The video comes courtesy of +Anthony De Rosa
, whose review of the event is here:http://blogs.reuters.com/anthony-derosa/2012/01/30/president-obama-hangs-out-on-google/
My immediate takeaway? The forum featured real questions on significant issues, with genuine citizen-president interactions, with back and forth conversation. That was precisely the promise of the platform that I considered ahead of time:http://oreil.ly/znCPfz
The moderator, +Steve Grove
, gave the participants (2 men, 2 women and one classroom of young people) the opportunity to follow up on their questions to the president.
There will be much more analysis of the questions asked and the president's answers tonight, as there should be. The forum began with a video question to the president about promoting a living wage for students working their way through college.
The second question came from the Hangout, on why the White House expanded H1B visas. President Obama told the wife of a semiconductor engineer (who asked the latter question and, notably, got a followup in the Hangout) that if she sent him her husband's resume, he'd be happy to find what's happening.
One could dismiss it as pandering -- or celebrate it as a citizen cutting through the morass of bureaucracy to tell the nation's chief executive that the system wasn't working as he said it should. Such followups in the Hangout are what made this different than the past YouTube and White House interviewed.
Another question from YouTube featured a video taken from an #Occupy protester in Portland. A question taken from within the White House Hangout asked about the president's plans to help small business and to restructure government, which the +Washington Post
covered here: http://wapo.st/zZ7OPm
A question from within the Hangout about a lack of dialog with children about the financial crisis offered the president a human moment, where he said that he tries to explain what's happened with economy to his daughters over the dinner table.
There were incontrovertibly tough questions asked tonight, including one from a homeless veteran who asked why the U.S. is sending money to Pakistan and places that are known to give money to terrorism. In answer, the president said that the U.S. only spends 1% of its budget on foreign aid, and that it pays off in a lot of ways as part of the country's national security strategy. What we don't want is countries to collapse, have to send in our guys at huge potential risk and cost to taxpayers, he said.
The President was asked a video question YouTube that cited a New York Times story on the use of drones in Iraq, http://nyti.ms/y2hSEY
, which the president called "overwritten. The drones have not caused an unusual number of civilian casualties, he said, stating that it was a targeted focused effort aimed at Al Queda, not for other purposes
I was personally glad to see that Grove asked a question on the Stop Online Piracy Act ( #SOPA ) and PROTECT IP Act ( #PIPA ), noting that both were hot within the YouTube community. Needless to say, that part of the transcript will be carefully analyzed. We need to use tools we have, he said, noting recent takedown action by the Justice Department. At the same time, when #SOPA came up on the hill, we expressed some concerns about the way the legislation had been written, said the president. http://oreil.ly/AigDaC
Now, he said, the content and server sides need to come together for strong IP protections that preserve basic architecture of the Internet.
Overall, I can honestly say that we saw something new in the intersection of government, technology and society. From where I sat, plugged in within the +Sunlight Foundation
, it felt like a good thing, not just for the White House or the president's campaign or Google (although all certainly benefited) but for the promise of the Internet to more directly connect public officials to those that they serve, with all of their real problems, concerns, doubts and fears.
At the end of the event, was even a moment of unexpected human connection, when one of the women on the hangout invited her three children to come meet the president.
They stared and smiled, left a bit wide eyed by the President of the United States smiling out of the computer screen and bidding them to obey their mother and do their homework. We could do with more wonder in the world, where such unexpected encounters occur online.